THREE scenes from planet football. In the early days of the century, one English football club owner leaned into another in a toilet where they had taken a comfort break from negotiating the broadcast deal with Sky TV. “Let’s wrap this up,’ he said. “We are just going to spend hours squeezing out a couple of million and we’ll just p*** it away on players anyway.”

In 2006, in the skies above France, Lionel Messi took the cabin microphone as Barcelona flew home after winning the 2006 Champions League final. He was excited, perhaps mischievous. “President, is there a bonus or not? Presi, come and fix the bonus. And no more watches, presi. You think I’m joking but I’m serious. We want houses, presi.”

Today in Scotland an incalculable mass of the population will organise the day around football. This includes the game run for girls and boys, the attendance at matches from amateur level to the elite professional stage and playing for a variety of teams of varying ability. Time will also be spent talking about, reading and watching the game.

The links between these three stories are being strained, perhaps have even been broken.

Planet football has undergone a seismic shift in a lifetime. Messi, deeply uncommunicative to the outside world, has ironically testified to this profound change. Football is moving away from its traditional base, both socially and geographically.

This is no indictment of the diminutive and hugely talented Argentinian. Capitalism has a problem when footballers adhere to the principles of capitalism. It is an odd, snobbish denigration.

Messi, whether on £100m a year at Barca or £50m at Paris St German, is merely playing the game of placing a worth on his services.

He is, though, part of a chain that now means football at the very highest level has to grow or go bust. The circle is broadly Great Players = Success = Broadcasting and merchandising wealth = Great Players.

It has created a generation of parvenus, in terms most often used in the debating corners of Saracen Cross.

Barcelona, the football club, has been brilliantly chronicled by such as Graham Hunter, Jimmy Burns and John Carlin. Simon Kuper has added to this library of Catalan success and excess with his Barca, published later this month. The book is insightful, properly provocative and hugely entertaining. Its sub-title ¬- I suspect not the chosen by Kuper - is The Inside Story of the World’s Greatest Football Club.

The competitive measure of history and attainment suggests that Barca are not even the greatest club in Spain. Similarly, Messi has travelled to Paris Saint-Germain, a club only formed in 1970, which means the Mouldmaster has a more storied history. The only other club Messi could have joined is Manchester City, who arguably are not the biggest club in their city.

Indeed, such as Celtic, Feyenoord, Ajax, Steaua Bucharest, Porto, PSV Eindhoven and Red Star Belgrade all won Europe’s premier club competition before Barca. PSG and Manchester City have never won the Champions League.

Geography has been kind to them. They play in leagues with huge broadcast deals. Economies have blessed them. PSG and Manchester City are backed by the resources of Qatar and Abu Dhabi, respectively.

Their power will not be tamed by wage caps. Why should it be? Players, as much as hedge fund owners, are entitled to benefit from the market. Fair play restrictions are a punchline rather than a viable deterrent.

The next challenge for these clubs is to push into markets that will make £50m annual salaries for players a matter for shrugging the shoulders. A super league is inevitable. Clubs can then target the huge markets in Asia and Middle East.

They are, frankly, prepared to leave behind what they privately called the “legacy fan”, that is, the guy or gal who has bought season tickets for decades. The new fan in Mumbai or Tianjin or Qianshan will more than compensate for any financial shortfall.

The first, desperate lunge by clubs at this prospect failed spectacularly. It is not dead, though, merely sleeping, and lightly at that.

It makes business sense and the personal has always been a dubious prospect in football. Fans regularly talk of “my club” but increasingly it's a plc-owned entity or a business venture by oligarch or aristocrat.

So why is this being aired on the opinion pages of a serious newspaper? Surely, football is a frivolity that should not concern the sober-minded.

Well, yes and no. Football embraces a large part of Scottish culture. It is part of the identity for many of our population. It was once one of our greatest exports in terms of talent and skill. The financial realities of the outside world means it has gone the way of shipbuilding and steel-making.

Scotland is a minor power when once we were kings. The crucial aspect is how we react to the growing reality of being corralled into a pen for the also-fans.

My view is, perhaps, romantic but based on both personal and national experience. The game means too much to us to simply become an irrelevance. Messi and PSG, Pep and City, Olly and United may be accessible by a tap on the TV remote. It is an option I will no doubt take up.

But today in Scotland a mass of us will make an act of faith. We will head to the game as grandparents, parents, fans or players.

Messi is a credible witness to the importance of football as a business. It exists, too, as a passion, a tormentor and, occasionally, as a purveyor of unmitigated joy. And the wee man knows something about that, too.

Our columns are platforms for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald